Monday, August 2, 2010
Break the Cycle!
Of all the bad habits followers of The Eat-Clean Diet® face, emotional eating is the hardest to break. Often, when we eat emotionally, we reach for junk food and lots of it, and that can have huge effects on our ability to achieve our health and fitness goals.
To break the cycle, we need to recognize what emotional eating is. If you are suddenly stricken with hunger or have a craving that can be fulfilled by only the specific food you are thinking about, it is likely that your hunger is emotional and not physical. Genuine hunger comes on gradually, not all of a sudden, and if you’re really hungry you will find many foods to be satisfying, not just what you are craving.
The sudden onset of hunger is triggered by an emotional event. All of us have been conditioned to eat food when we’re sad, bored, frustrated, anxious and even when we’re happy (think of all the times we choose to celebrate an event with cake and desserts). Emotional eating also tends to become a vicious cycle of self-sabotage. Once we allow ourselves to eat emotionally, we feel guilty, and that guilt feeds another bout of emotional eating that moves us even further away from our goals.
The most important step in breaking the cycle is being able to recognize your triggers. For the next week, track your meals in a food journal such as The Eat-Clean Diet® Companion. Along with your meals, you should write down your cravings and what your emotional state was before you experienced the craving (remember, it can be anything ranging from happiness to sadness to boredom to anger). If you give in, write down how you feel after you satisfy your craving. If you don’t give in, I also want you to write down how you feel. At the end of the week, look at your journal and reflect on the moments when your cravings struck.
Now that you know your triggers, here are 7 tips to help you beat them!
1. Eat Clean.
When you’re Eating Clean, you’re eating 5-6 small meals a day. You won’t be hungry because you’ll be eating the right portions of food for you and you’ll be getting the right balance of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to properly nourish your body. With meals every 2-3 hours and with the guidance of The Eat-Clean® Principles*, you shouldn’t suffer the cravings caused when we don’t supply our bodies with the proper nutrients.
2. Wait it out.
Once you’ve recognized that your craving is not genuine hunger, you can acknowledge it and choose not to feed it. Engage in another activity to take your mind off of the craving. Give yourself time to let the feeling pass. Even if it does linger, you can help beat it by eating your next Clean meal.
3. Don't deprive yourself.
The next time you are tempted by a craving, stop and reflect on your hunger. If you’ve determined that you are genuinely hungry, eat a small Clean snack made of almonds and a piece of fruit or maybe a few carrots with a bit of hummus. Keeping yourself hungry will only intensify the craving and leave you more prone to giving in.
4. Get support.
If the emotions that triggered your craving are negative ones, manage it in a way that isn’t eating. If you need to vent, head over to the Kitchen Table and let it out! There are lots of supportive people there who will listen to you and even give you advice on how to deal with your troubles!
5. Create a new habit.
In the end, if you want to stop emotional eating, you have to find ways other than eating to manage stress, alleviate boredom and show love. When I need a mental break from my chaotic life, I grab my running shoes and hit the treadmill. When I want to show my family that I love them, I spend quality time with them playing games, going for walks or even goofing off and sharing some laughter.
6. Moderation not elimination.
In the beginning, breaking this habit may be tough and you may give into your cravings more often than you’d like. Try dividing comfort foods into small portions. For example, reach for a snack-sized chocolate bar rather than a full-sized one. Better yet, if you have a chocolate craving, reach for a square of dark chocolate. Eat one, and have the strength to walk away.
7. There’s no such thing as failure.
As I said, there will be times when you give into the craving. Don’t think of this as a personal failure but as an opportunity to improve yourself. When you label yourself as a failure, you’ll only provide yourself with the negative emotions that trigger an episode of emotional eating.
Have a Great Week!